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Essex County Board of Elections gears up for GOP primary

A line of voting machines wait to be shipped to polling places around Essex County this week ahead of next week's primary election to determine the Republican nominee to replace retiring Congressman Bill Owens.

A line of voting machines wait to be shipped to polling places around Essex County this week ahead of next week's primary election to determine the Republican nominee to replace retiring Congressman Bill Owens. Photo by Pete DeMola.

ELIZABETHTOWN — In a non-descript office on the west end of the Essex County Government Center, away from the clamor of the two Republican candidates fighting to win their party’s nomination to replace outgoing Congressman Bill Owens (D-Plattsburgh), officials are engaged in a quieter, yet no less vital, task:

Preparing for the nuts and bolts of the GOP primary election on Tuesday, June 24.

Only registered Republicans are allowed to vote. There are 12,229 of them in the county (or about 51.6 percent of registered voters, a number that shrinks to 46.9 percent when you prune away those considered inactive), all of whom registered before the cut-off for federal elections on May 30.

Active voters should have received a pocket-sized white card with the location of their polling place.

“If you’re registered, you have the right to vote,” said Mark Whitney, the Democratic Commissioner of the Essex County Board of Elections. “The key is to go to the right polling place.”

There are 25 dotted throughout the county. Each of the 18 towns have at least one.

Registered Republicans who have not received their card are considered inactive and should call the Board of Elections for clarification. These are voters who may have moved, for instance, or others whose addresses cannot be verified.

“We’ll look you up,” said Whitney.

Voters who run into difficulty at their polling places on election day can still vote, but only through an affidavit.

Affidavits are treated like any other ballots. So are absentee ballots.

The commissioners, one Republican, the other, a Democrat, will then collectively decide if they will be counted.

“As commissioners, our job is to put on a fair and proper election,” said Republican Commissioner Allison McGahay.

Turnout for this election, she said, is difficult to predict. “We don’t have anything to base it on — this is only the second non-presidential federal primary cycle we’ve had in June,” she said. “Voters aren’t accustomed to thinking about elections this month. Everyone knows the first Tuesday in November — that’s historic. No one forgets that.”

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